MAY 17 – A SILENT CHRISTIAN: IS THAT POSSIBLE?

…and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

ROMANS 10:10

The Bible links faith to expression—and faith that never gets expression is not a Bible faith. We are told to believe in our hearts and confess with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we shall be saved.

It is my opinion, brethren, that the silent Christian has something wrong with him!

Psychologists try to deal with abnormal human behavior, linked to deep depression, where people just go into silence. They will not talk—they will not respond. They just shut up, and that’s all.

There is something wrong with the mind that does not want to talk and communicate. God gave each of us a mouth and He meant for us to use it to express some of the wonders that generate within our beings.

Someone describing the Quakers said they did not talk about their religion—they lived it. That is a foolish simplification—for the things that are closest to our hearts are the things we talk about and if God is close to our hearts, we will talk about Him!

This quiet religion that apologizes: “I haven’t anything to say” does not square with the vision of the heavenly beings who say with their voices, “Holy, holy, holy!”

You may say: “Well, I worship God in my heart.”

I wonder if you do. I wonder if you are simply excusing the fact that you have not generated enough spiritual heat to get your mouth open![1]


Heart Belief and Mouth Confession

Romans 10:10

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

In the last few studies I have been dealing with the nature of Christian preaching and therefore with the nature of the Christian gospel, based on the second paragraph of Romans 10. I want to carry that study further in this chapter, focusing on an important question: Is there such a thing as secret discipleship?

The Dallas doctrine would answer “Yes” since, according to that mistaken view, it is possible to be a Christian without any outward evidence of justification or regeneration at all. If you do not even have to repent of sin to be a Christian, you certainly do not have to confess Christ openly. In fact, you can even deny him. You can turn your back on him altogether. In the previous study I tried to show why that view is wrong, fatally wrong, in fact. Now I want to show that it is not only necessary to repent of sin, trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and follow him in faithful discipleship throughout life, but that it is also necessary to confess him openly before other men and women.

That is the teaching of our text: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rom. 10:10). I want to explore the exact meaning of that clear statement.

Secret Discipleship?

As I prepared this study I remembered doing a sermon on this subject sixteen years earlier in which I asked two questions: “Is it possible for a person to be a secret believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it possible to believe in Jesus with our whole hearts and not confess him openly?” I was asking those questions because I had come to a passage in my study of the Gospel of John in which many of the Jewish leaders are said to have believed on Jesus even though “because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).

It was a puzzling text to me, because on the surface it seemed to say that silent belief is possible, while, at the same time, the language was such that I naturally wondered if the belief spoken of in the case of these religious leaders was genuine. After all, the passage goes on to say, “for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (v. 43)—and that does not sound like genuine Christianity.

I finally concluded that, whatever the case may have been, these men were trying to do something that ultimately is impossible. For this reason: Either the secrecy kills the discipleship, or else the discipleship kills the secrecy. In the end, secret discipleship is a contradiction in terms, and this means that we must confess Jesus openly if we are to be (and remain) true Christians.

Today I am not so hesitant. And one of the reasons I am not so hesitant is our text, which indissolubly links heart belief and mouth confession. You will recall from our earlier studies that we are not to find some prescribed sequence of events in these verses, as if we first believe and then confess, or even some supposed ordering of priorities, as if one item were essential and the other good but not essential. That is not how Paul is speaking. He is describing what it means to be a Christian, and his point is that all must believe the truth about Jesus, receive it into the heart, and then confess him openly before others.

When Paul says we must believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths, he is saying that we must do both and that it is the presence of both together—faith leading to confession and confession proving the reality of faith—that leads to “righteousness” and “salvation.”

This is the way all the major commentators handle Romans 10:10. Robert Haldane, the Scottish Bible teacher responsible for the Swiss revival of the early nineteenth century (sometimes called Haldane’s Revival), wrote, “Confession of Christ is as necessary as faith in him, but necessary for a different purpose. Faith is necessary to obtain the gift of righteousness. Confession is necessary to prove that this gift is received. If a man does not confess Christ at the hazard of life, character, property, liberty, and everything dear to him, he has not the faith of Christ.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of London who was responsible for a revival of a different sort only a generation later, said, “Faith and confession … are joined together; let not man put them asunder.”

Leon Morris, a scholar of our own day, writes, “These are but two parts of the same saving experience.”

What a great verse this is! It is a preacher’s verse. Some verses are for scholars; they are to be probed, analyzed, and fathomed. Some are for devotional reading; our hearts are warmed by them. Others, like this one, are to be declared boldly and joyfully. This is a verse that, together with the one before it, assures us that if we believe in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God, that he is both Lord and Savior and that God has raised him from the dead, and that if we confess him as Lord before other people, we will be justified by God, being forgiven of all sin, and will be saved, not only now or in future days but at the final judgment.

There is no greater message in all the world than that message. There is nothing so important in life as to believe on and confess Jesus. There is no greater result than the salvation to be gained by receiving and acting upon that gospel.

Heart Belief

The verse is in two parts, of course, and the first of these two parts concerns faith. It is what Paul is talking about when he says, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified.”

At this point we do not need to take a great deal of time to speak about the object of faith, for this is what the passage and our study have been exploring all along. The object of faith is “Jesus as Lord.” This means, Jesus as: (1) the divine Son of God, (2) the Savior who died to rescue us from sin, and (3) the Lord who rules over his people and church. Some have argued that a person does not have to believe on Jesus as his or her Lord to be a Christian, maintaining that we need only to believe on him as our Savior. But a Savior who is not also Lord is another Jesus, a counterfeit Jesus, and a counterfeit Jesus will save no one. It is only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved.

What is new about this section of the verse is the phrase “with your heart.” It is striking because it deals with the nature of true faith or belief. Without these words we might suppose, as the Dallas doctrine teaches, that faith is a matter of the intellect only. But lest we make that mistake, Paul tells us by these words that faith is a matter of the whole being—intellect, will, and emotions—which is what the word heart in the Bible signifies. The faith that saves is a faith that takes all we are and commits it to all that Jesus Christ is.

Moreover, “with the heart” implies two other important truths.

  1. It implies sincerity. In one of her books and in many of her public talks, Corrie ten Boom describes a time in which, years after her deliverance from the Nazi death camps, she was confronted by one of the brutal German guards who had been responsible for the death of her sister Betsie. The guard, who had become a Christian, came forward at one of her meetings and asked her for forgiveness. Corrie described what a struggle it was for her. But at last the Holy Spirit had his way, and she grasped the outstretched hand of her former persecutor, responding, “Yes, I do forgive you—with all my heart.”

That is what belief “with the heart” is all about. It means “sincerely” or “wholeheartedly.” It is the way the Bible uses the word when it commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

Here is what John Calvin said about believing with the heart. “Let us note that the seat of faith is not in the head but in the heart. I am not going to argue about the part of the body in which faith is located, but since the word heart generally means a serious and sincere affection, I maintain that faith is a firm and effectual confidence, and not just a bare idea.” It is, in other words, notitia, assensus, and fiducia, as the theologians of the Reformation and later centuries frequently expressed it.

  1. It implies the Holy Spirit’s work. When we look at what the Bible says about the hearts of men and women, we see, on the one hand, that the heart is “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9) and that, on the other hand, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to renew or regenerate evil hearts (“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them …” Ezek. 11:19; cf. 18:31; 36:26). Otherwise, we do not get a right spirit, nor do we come to believe on Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.

God said through the prophet Isaiah, “These people come near to me with their mouth / and honor me with their lips, / but their hearts are far from me” (Isa. 29:13, emphasis added). Yet God also spoke through Jeremiah:

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel

after that time,” declares the Lord.

“I will put my law in their minds

and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,

or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

because they will all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.”

Jeremiah 31:33–34, emphasis added

This began to be fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit operated through the preaching of Peter to bring three thousand people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is being fulfilled in our day whenever people hear the Word of God, turn from sin, believe on Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, and confess him before others.

Mouth Confession

The second part of this verse is the part with which I actually began, asking, “Is it possible to be a secret believer?” It answers by telling us, “It is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” This second part goes with the first, so that (in one sense) it is as necessary to confess Christ as Lord and Savior as it is to believe on him.

We are to confess him with our mouths, of course, which means openly and audibly. But a simple public testimony in a meeting does not exhaust the ways we can confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

How can we confess him? Let me suggest the following eight ways.

  1. In public worship. The first and most obvious way in which you can confess Jesus Christ is by assembling with other Christians in public worship. There have been times in history when this has been a mere form for many. It is probably a mere form for many, even today. Yet this is changing. As more and more people are neglecting church, preferring the idle pleasures of the world to the demands of public worship, the mere fact of your joining with other believers to worship God can be a useful and significant confession that you are indeed a Christian.

I am aware of this most Sunday mornings. I live only four blocks from Tenth Presbyterian Church, so I walk to church. As I do this Sunday by Sunday throughout the year, I am aware of those I pass on the streets on those mornings. There are always a number who have been to the convenience store to pick up the Sunday papers and are reading them as they shuffle along sleepily. I also pass joggers. They are working earnestly to preserve their bodies, which will perish anyway in time, while they are indifferent to the condition of their souls. Other people are just walking along, some perhaps returning from an all-night debauch or binge.

But while all this is going on, there is an entirely different group of people, a subculture that is collecting from around the Delaware Valley. These people are alert and expectant. They have their Bibles in hand, and their minds are already attuned to the God they are coming to worship. The mere fact that they are collecting to worship him sets them apart. They are rightly and joyfully confessing Christ by what they do on Sunday mornings.

  1. By the sacraments. A second way in which we confess Christ openly is by our participation in the sacraments: baptism, the initiatory sacrament of the Christian faith; and the Lord’s Supper, the repeatable sacrament. Both are for Christians only, and by both we proclaim before other people that Jesus Christ is our Lord.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon had a wonderful sermon on the second half of this text, the part speaking of confession with our mouths, in which he listed a number of these means of confessing Christ. He spoke of baptism, calling it the crossing of the Rubicon: “If Caesar crossed the Rubicon, there would never be peace between him and the senate again. He draws his sword, and he throws away his scabbard. Such is the act of baptism to the believer. It is the crossing of the Rubicon. It is as much as to say, ‘I cannot come back again to you. I am dead to you. And to prove I am, I am absolutely buried to you. I have nothing more to do with the world. I am Christ’s and Christ’s forever.”

So also with the Lord’s Supper. As you partake of it you say to the world, “I am not my own. I am Christ’s. I am in fellowship with him. Therefore, I cannot indulge in the sins in which you indulge or live for the goals for which you surrender everything.”

  1. Through association with God’s people. Not all our associations with other believers are formal, that is, in worship services and sacraments. We also associate with them informally, proving by our identification with these others, of whatever race, nationality, or status in life, that we belong to the same Lord and confess the same gospel. You can do that at work, in weekly Bible studies, or just by your friendships. We remember that in his first letter, the apostle John made our love for other Christians one of the tests by which we can know whether or not we are a Christian (1 John 3:11–13). If this is a way we can know we are Christians and are following Christ, it is obviously also a way by which others can know we are Christians. The pagans said of the early Christians, “Behold, how they love one another.”
  2. By how we conduct our business. How you conduct your business or how you work in someone else’s business also testifies to whether or not you belong to Jesus Christ. It is a rare business that is utterly upright and moral. Therefore, there will be many occasions when a person who belongs to Christ will have to stand up for him, saying, “I cannot do that, because I am a Christian.” Although a stand like that may result in isolation, abuse, ridicule, or persecution, even loss of a job, it is necessary. A faith that is not supported by an upright moral life is not worth having.
  3. In reaching out to others. A fifth way we confess Christ before others is by reaching out to them in evangelism. Spurgeon said, “I believe, my brethren, that a Christian man can hardly carry out his confession with his mouth, unless he goes a little out of his way at times to bear testimony.” Do you do that? Do you do anything, even something quite little, merely to be able to speak to others about Jesus? If not, how can you consider yourself to be a Christian? If you are a Christian, Christ is your Lord, and it is he who said, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
  4. In temptation. There is never a better and more hopeful opportunity to confess Jesus as Lord than in a time of temptation. Remember Joseph. He was pursued by the wife of his Egyptian master, Potiphar. But he refused to sleep with her, proclaiming, “… How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). The temptation gave him an opportunity to state his true allegiance, and stating it undoubtedly also helped him to resist the sin. You would be wise to do the same.
  5. In severe trials. The seventh circumstance in which you can confess Christ forcefully is in severe trials. Have you lost your job? Has your wife or husband left you? Have you discovered that you have a serious, perhaps fatal illness? This is your opportunity to show the world that you are not like those who have no knowledge of the true God or of his Son our Savior. It is a time you can say, “I am not afraid of what is coming, for I belong to Jesus Christ. He has shown his love by dying for me, and I know that he will not desert me. Even in the face of a loved one’s death, says Paul, though we grieve we do not grieve “like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
  6. In the hour of our deaths. Finally, we sometimes also have the privilege of confessing Jesus as Lord in the hour of our deaths. This is not always possible, given the forms of medical treatment today. But it often is. Some of the greatest testimonies of believers to the grace and power of God have been given on their deathbeds.

When he was dying, William Carey, known as the father of modern missions and a great missionary to India, said to a friend, “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey; speak about Dr. Carey’s Savior.”

David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, said, “Build me a hut to die in. I am going home.”

John Bunyan, the Bedford tinker who left the world the immortal Christian classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, said as he died, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves. I go to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will, no doubt, through the mediation of his blessed Son, receive me, though a sinner. We shall ere long meet to sing the new song, and remain everlastingly happy, world without end. Amen.”

Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist, said, “I see the children’s faces. Earth is receding. Heaven is opening. God is calling.”

Righteousness and Salvation

Since the end result of heart belief and mouth confession, which we have been studying, is the righteousness and salvation about which the text speaks, and since these are the greatest blessings any human being can receive, let it be your deep desire to believe on Jesus as Savior and Lord wholeheartedly and let it be your earnest endeavor to confess him before others in every possible way. Let’s be rid of all “secret discipleship,” if such a thing even exists. We do not have long to live. Let us use our time well and wisely, above all by trusting wholly in Jesus Christ and by confessing him boldly with our mouths. Let us stand with him, bearing his reproach, knowing that if we do, one day we will be with him in glory and will reign with him forever.

Jesus himself said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32).

Health, Wealth, and What?

Romans 10:10

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

For the last few studies I have been following an alternating procedure in which I have first expounded a text from Romans and then dealt with wrong ways of understanding the gospel or doing evangelism that result from misusing or neglecting what the text teaches. Thus far I have dealt with two wrong approaches: (1) the religion of signs and wonders, and (2) the doctrine that eliminates claims of Christ to lordship from salvation matters.

In this study I want to tackle another serious aberration, namely, the gospel that is often proclaimed on television by the so-called television evangelists. This is sometimes called the “health, wealth, and happiness” gospel.

The reasons I am dealing with this aberration at this point is that it has bearing on the word saved, which we came to in the last two verses we were studying. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (emphasis added). The next verse, Romans 10:10, says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (emphasis added). I said in the last study that the future tense of the verb in verse 9 indicates that this is speaking of salvation from the wrath of God against sin at the last judgment. If I had been dealing with this fully, I could have shown that “salvation” is an inclusive term for what the Bible offers. It includes: (1) salvation from the penalty of sin, a past tense; (2) salvation from the power of sin, a present tense; and (3) salvation from the presence of sin, a future tense. Each part has to do with sin.

Most Christians will think this is obvious. What person who claims to be a Christian could deny it? Yet this is precisely what is being lost or even denied by the many popular TV preachers. This is no small matter. The error concerns the very essence of Christianity, and it is unusually harmful if for no other reason than that television is so pervasive and influential. For millions of Americans, the “electronic church” is virtually all they know of Christianity.

The Gospel According to Television

Let me begin by setting some parameters and providing some focus. First, what I am going to say does not apply to all religious television. It does not apply to the broadcasts of the Billy Graham Association, for instance. Billy Graham is an exception in this, as in many other areas of his unique ministry. Joel Nederhood’s “Faith 20” program is another exception. So also, though to a lesser degree, is James Kennedy’s television program. People who know the television medium well will say rightly that these programs are “bad television.” That is, they do not play to television’s unique capacities for oversimplification, drama, and entertainment. But that is precisely why they are a good exception. I hope they will survive.

What I am referring to are the exceptionally popular (read “financially successful”) programs, particularly those that promote what is generally called “positive [or possibility] thinking” and “positive confessionism.” These programs are associated with such names as Robert Schuller, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, and Robert Tilton. Instead of a traditional gospel of salvation from sin, these TV evangelists preach a man-centered gospel that, in its mildest form, offers self-esteem without repentance and, in its most startling extension, proclaims the deification of man, with its inevitable blasphemous encroachments on God’s prerogatives.

This TV gospel promotes self-esteem instead of sin, self-help instead of atonement and redemption, an entertainer instead of Christ, and a lust for power instead of true discipleship.

In 1990, a talented friend of mine named Michael Horton edited a book on the TV evangelists entitled The Agony of Deceit. He concluded, after a careful examination of the actual teachings of this influential group of communicators, “All of the televangelists censured in this book tend to trivialize the plan of salvation. There is rarely any serious attempt to explain to the masses such basic redemptive truths as the substitutionary atonement, propitiation, or sacrifice and satisfaction. … One thing the viewer comes away with is the sense that the purpose of evangelism is not to satisfy God and his purposes, but to satisfy the consumer with the product.”

In the following analysis I am depending in large measure on the material assembled by Horton and his associates.

The Gospel of Self-Esteem

The least objectionable, but still harmful, form of the TV gospel is the message of “self-esteem” associated with the name of Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, not far from Disneyland. Schuller’s weekly Sunday-morning services are broadcast on more than two hundred television stations worldwide, and he is watched by more than three million people. In an interview feature in late 1984, Christianity Today claimed that he is “reaching more non-Christians than any other religious leader in America.”

Robert Schuller wants to be orthodox and claims to be. He believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and affirms the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds. He even claims to be a Calvinist, professing submission to the Westminster Standards and the Canons of the Synod of Dort, which is the official standard of his denomination. Nevertheless, Schuller’s doctrine of sin is deficient, and as a result his doctrine of salvation has shifted away from the message of God’s redeeming work in Christ to what is basically a philosophy of positive thinking, at least to the extent that his views are disclosed on television.

In 1982, Schuller wrote a book that was mailed free to every minister in America. It was titled Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. In this book Schuller took issue with the ways traditional preaching speaks of sin and proposed a gospel of enlightened “self-esteem” instead. Clearly, Schuller believes that if other ministers follow his approach, most of them will have the same or nearly the same (numerical) success he has had.

What did he say? Schuller wrote, “Reformation theology failed to make clear that the core of sin is a lack of self-esteem.” “The most serious sin is the one that causes me to say, ‘I am unworthy. I may have no claim to divine sonship if you examine me at my worst.’ ” “Once a person believes he is an ‘unworthy sinner,’ it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.” Writing along the same lines in a paragraph quoted by Christianity Today in 1984, Schuller said, “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.”

To be fair to Schuller, he claims that his evangelistic strategy is to get non-Christians in the door, as it were, and then teach them the gospel later. But it is also fair to say that whatever is heard on Schuller’s influential television program is not that gospel.

Besides, one cannot help but question whether the true gospel can ever be built on a false foundation. In a helpful analysis of Schuller, authors Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon write, “One thing is certain … : The Bible never urges self-acceptance, self-love, self-assertion, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-forgiveness, nor any of the other selfisms that are so popular today. The answer to depression is not to accept self, but to turn from self to Christ. A preoccupation with self is the very antithesis of what the Bible teaches.”

Health, Wealth, and Happiness

The second, and much more harmful brand of the TV gospel is the “health, wealth, and happiness” message of the positive confessionists, men like Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, and Robert Tilton. These preachers believe that “health, wealth, and happiness” are the birthright of every Christian and that the power to attain them lies within Christians themselves. They affirm the gospel. I know of none who would deny outright that Jesus died for sin and rose again from the dead. But this is not the gospel they preach. In fact, they seem almost intentionally to ignore it.

What these preachers really seem to believe in is the power of the mind to visualize and thus create what one desires. This is New Age thinking. It is not far removed from the fantasies of Shirley MacLaine and may actually have the same origins, as some argue.

A popular slogan for this distortion of the Bible’s message is: “Name it and claim it.” That is, we have the right to whatever we want because we are God’s sons and daughters or even, as we will see, because we are ourselves “little gods.” We see this view reflected in book and pamphlet titles such as Kenneth E. Hagin’s “How to Write Your Own Ticket with God” and Robert Tilton’s magazine, Signs, Wonders and Miracles of Faith, which is filled with stories of financial and physical success from his followers. Kenneth Copeland has written “God’s Will Is Health” and “God’s Will Is Prosperity.” Oral Roberts promises people on his mailing list, “prosperity miracles that are within fingertip reach of your faith,” and one of his most recent books is titled How I Learned Jesus Was Not Poor.

Christians who know their Bibles may wonder how the TV evangelists deal with Bible statements to the contrary, statements that say we are called to suffer with Christ or Job’s statement that “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). It is not often that we hear the TV evangelists contradict Scripture, but they do at this point. Charles Capps, another “name it and claim it” preacher, said that Job “was sure not under the anointing” when he said, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” and called the statement a “lie.”

Even Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network and a former candidate for the presidency of the United States in the 1988 elections, said, “I can hardly think that the Bible, which was transmitted through human beings, is totally perfect. I believe it to be the Word of God and a fully inspired book, but not perfection.”

The false teaching I have been describing would be serious enough if it stopped here. But, unfortunately, it does not. In an effort to enforce the “authority” the positive confessionists believe to have been given to each Christian, these teachers extend their errors to insist that by their rebirth, Christians have become “little gods” and therefore possess the authority of God himself, not only in “health, wealth, and happiness” matters but in all things. This is either so ignorant or so diabolical that it is hard for most Christians to believe that such “nice Christian men” are teaching this. But they are, as scores of verbatim quotations show. Here are some examples. …

Kenneth Copeland, one of the most popular TV evangelists, said, “Every man who has been born again is an incarnation, and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” On another occasion he said, “You don’t have a god in you. You are one.”12

Kenneth E. Hagin wrote, “Even many in the great body of Full Gospel people do not know that the new birth is a real incarnation; they do not know that they are as much sons and daughters of God as Jesus.”

In a televised interview with Copeland, Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Paul Crouch made this statement: “We are gods. I am a little god. I have his name. I am one with him. … Critics be gone!”

Here is a particularly offensive example from a tape series called “Believing in Yourself” by Casey Treat.

The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost had a conference and they said, “Let’s make man an exact duplicate of us.” Oh, I don’t know about you, but that does turn my crank! An exact duplicate of God! Say it out loud—“I’m an exact duplicate of God!” [The audience repeats it a bit tentatively and uncertainly.]

Come on, say it! [He leads them in unison.] “I’m an exact duplicate of God!” Say it again, “I’m an exact duplicate of God!” [The congregation is getting into it, louder and bolder, with more enthusiasm each time.] Say it like you mean it! [He’s yelling now.] “I’m an exact duplicate of God!” Yell it out loud! Shout it! [They follow as he leads.] “I’m an exact duplicate of God!” “I’m an exact duplicate of God!” [Repeatedly] . …

When God looks in the mirror, he sees me! When I look in the mirror, I see God! Oh, hallelujah! …

You know, sometimes people say to me, when they’re mad and want to put me down. … “You just think you’re a little god.” Thank you! Hallelujah! You got that right! “Who d’you think you are, Jesus?” Yep!

Are you listening to me? Are you kids running around here acting like little gods? Why not? God told me to! … Since I’m an exact duplicate of God, I’m going to act like God!”

What we see in this teaching is an inevitable multiplication of false doctrines. It began with unlimited faith, but it soon progressed to unlimited health, unlimited wealth, unlimited power, and unlimited divinity. And even that is not the end. The last stage is unlimited dominion, even more dominion or authority than Jesus. Kenneth Hagin tells of a supposed conversation he had with God that was periodically interrupted by Satan. Hagin asked God to silence the devil, but God said he couldn’t do it. He was powerless. So Hagin commanded Satan to be quiet. Hagin concluded his story with these words: “Jesus looked at me and said, ‘If you hadn’t done anything about that, I couldn’t have.’ ”

What is the end purpose of this unlimited, divine authority? I remind you that it is to grow healthy and rich, and to be happy for that reason. That is, it is selfish. Pat Robertson said, “We are to command the money to come to us.” Fred Price says, “You, as a Christian, are supposed to be master of your circumstances. … There is no way in the world you can reign as a king and be poverty-stricken.”

Let me say that I do not know of any teachings anywhere that are a better contemporary illustration of the warning of 2 Timothy 3:1–5, which says that in the last days, “people will be lovers of themselves [the gospel of ‘self-esteem’], lovers of money [and] … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God [the ‘health, wealth, and happiness’ gospel].”

The Nature of Television

There is one more thing that needs to be said before I drop this topic and go on with our studies of Romans 10. The problems I have been describing result in large measure from the very nature of television, by which I mean that broadcast television is a bad medium for communicating the gospel.

We have been taught to think of television as a powerful educational tool, but education is what television probably does worst. Broadcast television is an entertainment medium, and the result is that it eventually turns everything it touches into entertainment. If entertainment is what it is presenting, that is all right. You may as well watch a movie on television as see it in a theater. But to the degree it tries to be serious, television is harmful, because it trivializes the serious by making news events, politics—yes, even religion itself—entertainment.

Because television creates and thrives on celebrities, when religion goes on television the evangelist inevitably becomes the focus of audience attention, a celebrity. He becomes “a god” and soon begins to think of himself as one, promising the viewers that they can become “gods,” too. Again, the program becomes a performance, entertainment, because that is what television is. As a result, religious programs thrive, not by preaching of the gospel but by becoming “holy vaudeville” or talk shows. Above all, television is marketing products. So in the end the gospel (or religion) becomes merely another item to be sold, and success is viewed, not in the number of conversions, still less in the development of Christian character, but in audience share and income.

What I am saying is that television is not a good place to do religion. Those who attempt it do so at their own peril and that of their viewers.

We would be far better off heeding the words of Romans 10, which warn us against ascending into heaven to bring Christ down or descending into the deep to bring him up from the dead—can we say, “trying to be celebrities?”—and instead direct us to the Word of God, which is given to us by revelation, is near us, and is the “word of faith we are proclaiming” (vv. 6–8).

As far as I am concerned, let me say clearly that I have no new word from God, no new revelation. The only word I have is the Word that has been once for all delivered to God’s saints. I am a teacher. I seek only to point you to those old doctrines and invite you to walk those worn paths. I do not want to entertain. The world will do that. I want to challenge your minds and move your hearts to obey the Bible’s teachings. And God forbid that I, or any other preacher, should teach anything contrary to the true gospel doctrine of repentance for sin and corresponding faith in and submission to Jesus Christ.

I echo Michael Horton’s own words when he says:

The biblical gospel offers freedom from sin, not sinlessness; liberation from guilt, not from sin-consciousness; salvation from spiritual, not material, poverty. It offers peace with God won by Christ’s bloody sacrifice—not success won by our incessant “decrees.” It promises salvation from God’s wrath, not freedom from the unhappiness common to all humanity from time to time. And it hides us—in the midst of our pain and grief—in the wounds of Christ, who has made us worthy to share in his suffering.[2]


10:10 In further explanation, Paul writes that with the heart one believes unto righteousness. It is not a mere intellectual assent but a genuine acceptance with one’s whole inward being. When a person does that, he is instantly justified.

Then with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; that is, the believer publicly confesses the salvation he has already received. Confession is not a condition of salvation but the inevitable outward expression of what has happened: “If on Jesus Christ you trust, speak for Him you surely must.” When a person really believes something, he wants to share it with others. So when a person is genuinely born again, it is too good to keep secret. He confesses Christ.

The Scriptures assume that when a person is saved he will make a public confession of that salvation. The two go together. Thus Kelly said, “If there be no confession of Christ the Lord with the mouth, we cannot speak of salvation; as our Lord said, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ ” And Denney comments,

“A heart believing unto righteousness, and a mouth making confession unto salvation, are not really two things, but two sides of the same thing.”

The question arises why confession comes first in 10:9, then belief, whereas in 10:10 belief comes first, then confession. The answer is not hard to find. In verse 9 the emphasis is on the Incarnation and the resurrection, and these doctrines are mentioned in their chronological order. The Incarnation comes first—Jesus is Lord. Then the resurrection—God raised Him from the dead. In verse 10 the emphasis is on the order of events in the salvation of a sinner. First he believes, then he makes a public confession of his salvation.[3]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: God and History (Vol. 3, pp. 1205–1220). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1721–1722). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s